Shelby Steele: The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment

You know they wouldn’t last: The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment

Now, a couple passages here from Shelby Steele, “The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment

 The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman.

Why did the civil-rights leadership use its greatly depleted moral authority to support Trayvon Martin? This young man was, after all, no Rosa Parks — a figure of indisputable human dignity set upon by the rank evil of white supremacy. Trayvon threw the first punch and then continued pummeling the much smaller Zimmerman. Yes, Trayvon was a kid, but he was also something of a menace. The larger tragedy is that his death will come to very little. There was no important principle or coherent protest implied in that first nose-breaking punch. It was just dumb bravado, a tough-guy punch.

“The civil-rights leadership rallied to Trayvon’s cause (and not to the cause of those hundreds of black kids slain in America’s inner cities this very year) to keep alive a certain cultural ‘truth’ that is the sole source of the leadership’s dwindling power. Put bluntly, this leadership rather easily tolerates black kids killing other black kids. But it cannot abide a white person (and Mr. Zimmerman, with his Hispanic background, was pushed into a white identity by the media over his objections) getting away with killing a black person without undermining the leadership’s very reason for being.

“The purpose of today’s civil-rights establishment is not to seek justice, but to seek power for blacks in American life based on the presumption that they are still, in a thousand subtle ways, victimized by white racism. This idea of victimization is an example of what I call a ‘poetic truth.’ Like poetic license, it bends the actual truth in order to put forward a larger and more essential truth — one that, of course, serves one’s cause,” but that has no real basis in truth.

“Poetic truths succeed by casting themselves as perfectly obvious: ‘America is a racist nation’; ‘the immigration debate is driven by racism’; ‘Zimmerman racially stereotyped Trayvon.’ And we say, ‘Yes, of course,’ lest we seem to be racist. Poetic truths work by moral intimidation, not reason.”  Exactly right.

One Response to Shelby Steele: The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment

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